Our grandsons, three of whom live near us, are into all kinds of sports. Throughout the years, we have attended T-ball, basketball, soccer and cross-country events. And now, Carter, the 11 year old, has decided he would like to start wrestling. I can’t figure out if he is just trying to do something different than his brothers or if he really has a knack for the sport, but as a sixth grader, he has already amassed enough wins that he has been asked to step up to the middle school varsity team. That’s quite an honor for a kid who has only started wrestling this past year.
When I was back in high school, many years ago, I also wrestled a little. I didn’t do it competitively against other schools, but it was one of the mandatory sports that we had to engage in during our classes in high school. I guess you could say that I held my own, but it was nothing to write home about. And I recall how hard it was to wrestle – much more difficult than it looked like from the viewpoint of a spectator. To be good at wrestling, you must be strong, very strong, and agile. I was neither of those. In fact, those of you who know me personally realize that I was built for comfort and not speed!
Today, I saw Carter wrestle in a match for the first time. It brought back memories from when I was in that circle trying to vanquish my opponent. And I recalled how tough this particular sport is. He has potential, no question about it, but it is tough to stay in shape and continue to expend that kind of energy during matches. I hope that he continues to wrestle as long as he enjoys it, but I wouldn’t want any of our grandchildren to participate in a particular sport if they are no longer energized by it.
During his tough match today, (unfortunately, he didn’t win), I was reminded of a Bible story told in Genesis when Jacob, the brother of Esau, found himself wrestling with God. It’s quite an interesting event. Jacob was returning to meet his brother Esau and was concerned that there would be ill will during the reunion. So, he set aside a large portion of his flocks as a gift for his estranged brother, hoping that this gift would placate Esau and that Esau may favorably receive Jacob.
Jacob sent messengers with the livestock and instructed his wives, servants and others in the party to cross over a nearby stream and wait for the morning. But before Jacob crossed over to meet his brother the following morning, he engaged God in a physical contest that lasted throughout the night. He would not let go of God and God tangled with Jacob for hours. Finally, at daybreak, and having wrestled the entire night, God touched the hip of Jacob and wrenched it. It is presumed that this injury to Jacob was permanent and it was also at this time that God gave Jacob a new name – henceforth, he would be known as Israel.
Our verse for the evening is from the book of Genesis and recounts the encounter between Jacob and God. Moses tells us, in Genesis 32:24-29, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.”
My encouragement this evening is that each of us can wrestle with God. We serve a God who gets involved in our personal lives and He is not offended when we shout out or cry out to Him. Just as Jacob did, there are times in each of our lives when we lash out at God and seek understanding or clarification – or a blessing! And sometimes it is exhausting and troubling all at the same time. But our great God understands. My prayer is that you will not hesitate to wrestle with God when you feel the need. One thing is for sure – you will be left with reminders of your engagement with Him. And that is a good thing! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…